By Madeleine Thompson
Last Thursday, the East River Fifties Association (ERFA) filed a zoning text amendment with the city to protect their neighborhood from a potential future influx of supertall residential towers. The move is a direct response to the proposed construction of a 900-foot apartment building at 426-432 E. 58th Street and Sutton Place, which was made possible because there are no height restrictions on that area.
“This is a zoning change that will encourage development while keeping the low- and mid-rise character of the neighborhood intact,” ERFA president Alan Kersch said in a statement. “Our plan also increases neighborhood diversity by adding incentives to vastly increase the amount of affordable housing.”
The Bauhouse Group’s Sutton Place luxury tower caused a swift outcry from East Side residents in the spring of 2015 when it was announced. In a resolution that May, Community Board 6 attempted to limit how high developers could build at Sutton Place and place a moratorium on supertall towers. However, since the development was as-of-right, it did not have to undergo a review process with the city.
Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the area, told Our Town in 2015 that he was opposed to the proliferation of supertall residential towers. “We have to draw the line when it comes to residential areas,” he said at the time. “They’re just going to keep creeping up throughout the city.” Kallos, along with Council Member Dan Garodnick and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, has also expressed his support for the new zoning text amendment.
According to ERFA’s statement, the group hopes a rezoning will “prevent supertowers through height limits and would provide greater incentives for affordable housing and design controls for wide buildings.”
The Sutton Place tower that sparked the community response has suffered numerous setbacks since last year, and Curbed NY reports that it is likely to go to auction after filing for bankruptcy this past April. The project was approved for sale in September, and the auction is expected to be held this month. As soon as the Department of City Planning certifies ERFA’s rezoning application as complete, a formal review process will begin. Though the application doesn’t guarantee that progress on Sutton Place will be stopped, it could devalue the building at auction. Ultimately, if passed, it could halt the project altogether. The residents and neighbors in the area are hoping that will be the case.
Madeleine Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org